One day just a few weeks ago, I woke up thinking about Jim Rohn, a person I heard speak at a company conference in 1987.
That Mr. Rohn popped into my consciousness just as I was waking wasn’t entirely surprising to me. Information he shared in his presentation nearly 25 years ago had a profound and lasting effect on my life, and I still speak of him frequently to others.
But simply because he was the very first thought of my day, I felt compelled to do a Google search on him. And from a linked obituary I found there, I learned he’d died two years ago – on December 5, 2009.
I took all this as a sign from the universe that my post this week (near the 2 year anniversary of his passing) should be devoted to Mr. Rohn and to sharing some of the most powerful ideas he presented. If you’re unfamiliar with Jim Rohn, he was one of America’s greatest motivational speakers ever; I encourage you to research more of his work.
Rohn launched a three-hour address by summarizing his biography. At 25 years old, he was on the road to nowhere special. He’d dropped out of college, was working at Sears as a stock clerk – and yet dreamed of having a more successful and fulfilled life.
It was around this time Rohn attended a lecture given by a wealthy entrepreneur named J. Earl Shoaff. While impressed by Mr. Shoaff’s professional achievements, Rohn was particularly captivated by the life philosophy which propelled them.
It wasn’t long after that Rohn joined Shoaff’s direct sales organization where he committed himself to a process of personal development. Leveraging all he learned – and with Shoaff’s personal mentorship – Rohn became a millionaire just six years later.
Rohn devoted the rest of his life to sharing all he’d learned from Mr. Shoaf and to studying the beliefs, behaviors and philosophy of exceptionally successful people. The synthesis of all the insights he acquired was the basis for the presentation I heard him give – what he’d themed, “The Seven Strategies for Health, Wealth and Happiness.”
During the time I was writing Lead From The Heart, I was invited to play in a charity golf tournament with some of my former work colleagues.
Our pairings were pre-assigned and I ended up riding in a golf cart with Jed – an often prickly fellow who once worked for me.
After we’d played a few holes, Jed seemed genuinely interested in hearing what I was writing about and asked me between shots to give him a quick summary.
I don’t remember exactly, but I essentially told him that it’s inarguable our traditional approach to leading people is failing and that I believed we needed an entirely new model. I explained that I was advocating for bringing the heart back into leadership as a means of re-engaging America’s workers.
Ordinarily self-focused, Jed seemed quite intrigued by my ideas and inquisitively asked, “What does someone have to do in order to lead from their heart?”
“Basically,” I told him, “you need to do four things:
We learned not long ago that a dear family friend, Rachel, had taken her own life.
The news, as you might imagine, was immediately shocking and devastating to all who knew and loved her – a married woman who’d devoted much of her life to raising her son and daughter and seeing them both graduate from college.
What struck me over the subsequent days leading up to Rachel’s funeral was how her circle of friends tapped into some special energy reserve to immediately support her grieving family. Contending with their own feelings of profound loss and sorrow, they rapidly mobilized.
Collectively and thoughtfully, they took full responsibility for planning a celebration of Rachel’s life. They selected her favorite park – with its sweeping view of the Pacific Ocean – and decorated the site with exquisite flowers and multi-colored balloons. Just a few days after Rachel’s death, they delivered moving and heartfelt eulogies and performed some of her favorite songs. To conclude the ceremony, they released white doves into the summer sky – a symbol of peace and deliverance.
This and so much more was done by Rachel’s friends to elevate her family’s spirits. This is what friends do in times of crisis, of course, and they executed magnificently.
Yet of all the acts of remarkable kindness and generosity that occurred after Rachel’s death, one struck me as being most extraordinary. Ironically, it was made by someone outside of Rachel’s group of friends – someone who had never met her.
During the eulogy he gave for his father, Senator Ted Kennedy, Teddy Kennedy, Jr. recalled a day shortly after losing a leg to cancer when his dad invited him to go sledding on their steep, snow-covered driveway.
Following his first reluctant ride down the slope, young Teddy slipped and fell as he attempted to walk back up the icy road.
Saddened and terribly frightened, he began to cry. “I can’t do this!” Teddy told his father. “I’ll never be able to climb up that hill!”
Facing the thousands of people who had filled the church for his father’s funeral, Teddy related how his father responded: “He lifted me up in his strong gentle arms and said something I will never forget. He said ‘I know you can do it. There is nothing that you can’t do. We’re going to climb that hill together even if it takes us all day long.’”
Greatly inexperienced with his new prosthetic leg, Teddy said that his father convinced him at that moment that he was going to be okay.
“My father taught me our most profound losses are survivable,” Teddy said. “Our ability to transform them into positive events is one of my father’s greatest lessons. He taught me that nothing is impossible.”
I tend to have a metaphysical attitude about the books I read – I believe they’re put in front of me just when I need their specific information in my life. Whether you agree or disagree that the universe conspires to help you this way, I recently came across a book that reinforces my conviction.
When I’d finished writing, Lead From The Heart, I began thinking about how I could engage people in further discussion around its ideas. Entirely new to social media, I signed up for Facebook and Twitter and began researching how other authors used them. Not surprising (at least to me), the first tweet I read was from the CEO of a well-known book publisher. His message: “If you’re a new author, make sure you read a book called Tribes, by Seth Godin.”
Believing this was a message intended especially for me, I found the book and read it in one sitting.
Here’s what Godin told me.